Monday, August 28, 2006

The Jedi at the salad bar

I guess it was Saturday evening, sitting in the Hilton coffee shop. (Is that name still valid or useful with a Starbucks just down the hall? I wonder.) I looked up from my book, and saw a Jedi pushing a tray along the salad bar, peering intently at the choices for his dinner. He costume was perfect, nothing amateurish about it, but at the same time he had on glasses and a yellow plastic tag hanging around his neck.

That's one image I remember now from LACon IV, one of many. The formal close was yesterday afternoon, but I left before that, but I am sure that the parties would be continuing all night without me. I got back here at a reasonable hour, and I'm taking today off to catch up on laundry and sleep. As I get a little more distance from the con, I am feeling better and better about attending -- I was simply too tired some times and had to learn to take more time off.

I'm processing a lot of memories and images:

  • a silver robot carrying two coffees from the Hilton Starbucks to the Convention Center;
  • Anne McCaffrey and Karen Black in a reader's theater presentation of an old L. Ron Hubbard short story;
  • a theremin playing in the background while discussing natural disasters, the collapse of the Internet, and nuclear war at the General Technics party after midnight;
  • kilts, lots of kilts;
  • trying to find a particular room on the fifth floor of the Hilton, and getting lost;
  • being treated to Merlot and conversation by Joe and Gay Haldeman -- kaffeeklatches don't necessarily involve coffee;
  • costumes that ranged from the typical Star Trek recreation to some of the most detailed and beautiful pieces of work I have even seen up close;
  • corsets, lots of corsets -- but generally not in combination with a kilt;
  • watching the fireworks from the end of an Angels game (a bit better than the Disneyland show earlier) from the lanai at the Tor party;
  • electric scooters everywhere -- every session had at least one in the aisle;
  • the glow of cell phone screens in the audience, held up at Masquerade to catch pictures of the costumes;
  • being "recognized" as a Worldcon attendee in my (non-convention) hotel by another attendee before I had a chance to register -- "didn't I meet you last year at Westercon?"
  • Watching Frank Wu bound up to the stage to accept a Hugo for best fan artist -- then worshiping with him at the Mass the next morning;
  • John Scalzi proving how classy he is accepting the Campbell award;
  • and much, much more.
Prior to this, the closest I had ever come to a SF author was their dust jacket pictures. Well, that has definitely changed -- along with those mentioned above, I saw (and in a few cases talked with) Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers (just finishing Last Call), Mike Resnick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, and Robert Charles Wilson. I'm also sure I have left somebody out and I wasn't even trying hard.

I didn't plan on kaffeeklatches and attending Masquerade, but these were some of the best moments at Worldcon. And on Sunday morning, when the designated location proved to be much too noisy, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden guided those of us who had gathered for the kaffeeklatch up to the green room where we stole most of the available chairs for the session. The Hugos could not have gone better for them, and they were simply glowing, proud of the honors paid to their friends and co-workers. Teresa sliced up some dinosaur egg plums for us, and we found out that what looked like a leaf pendant had a better use.

Will I go to another one? I just don't know -- let's see what happens with BayCon next year.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Getting started

Well, I made it here, and made it through the rest of the day.

I made it into Anaheim before noon, and made it over to the convention center to register. The volunteer staff seems to be doing a very good job and things are running smoothly. Two things are making this a rather interesting experience:

  • This is my first SF convention of any kind, and
  • I am very familiar with this facility after years of the RE Congress.
In fact, some of my strangest moments so far was entering Hall A, which is usually crammed full as the vendor area at Congress. Here at Worldcon, all the organizational booths, the various art and artifact exhibitions (very impressive), along with the vendors are all there, with very generous aisles and room to spare. We'll see how crowded they get this weekend.

The opening ceremonies were packed and fun, with guest of honor Connie Willis pleasing the crowd, along with a kinescope of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet with Kellogg's Corn Flakes ads intact. I made it to Blogs & E-Fanzines and Nuclear Weapons Strategies (I'm an Air Force brat, so?) then grabbed some Chinese food and kicked back at my hotel. (I am not staying at the convention hotels, saving a little money and getting some welcome distance.) I did make it to the Babel Conference Ambassadorial Reception, a homage to the original series Star Trek episode Journey to Babel. It was great if you wanted to show off your Star Trek costume, or knew someone who did. Otherwise it was a fair size party with cake (too much sugar for me) and drinks you had to pay for. I quickly moved on.

The parties are all held on the same level at the Hilton, and the rooms all open onto one of the three lanai courtyards, which has the advantages of isolating all the noise from the rest of the hotel, providing expansion space for each party, and allowing a second door (which helps a lot). And you can wander around the lanai instead of the hallways. I made it to the bid parties for Chicago, Columbus, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Denver as well as for my real favorite, Casa de Worldcon. Google also had a party to troll for geeks who could be future employees, but I don't think think they got too far with that. All the parties appear to have followed the various outlines for con parties, but I think they should consider the drink proportions posted recently by Teresa at Making Light, with some additional attention to diet drinks -- water and diet stuff seemed to disappear the fastest. Maybe it's the first night crowd that's older. I had fun, did't stay too late, and managed to pick up ribbons and stickers, but missed the Google flashing light stickon.

Talked with a lot of people, and met some people I was looking for, including the Nielsen Haydens (gracious as always) as well as Fr. John Blaker, the celebrant for the Mass here on Sunday. Things seem to be well organized and run, which seems to be partly due to the large amount of tribal lore about running cons, with lots or experience all around to draw from. The winner on this count is the Space Cadet Operations Manual, the pocket guide. It's a 4" x 5", 140+ page ring bound book with simply everything in it you need to know -- with the exception of party plans and daily changes. This beats the RE Congress guide all hollow, and does fit nicely in a pocket. Don't leave your home planet without it.

Today (Thursday)? I'm still not sure what at 10, but at 1 it will be Kevin Drum's presentation, and at 2:30 there is Post-Apocalyptic SF and Mars imaging from orbit. There is also a discussion about agriculture in California I may go to lob a few grenades in. I'm still working on the 4pm and 5:30pm sessions. The Chronicles of Narnia film is being shown at 6 and I haven't seen that yet. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We interrupt this hiatus -- for Worldcon

Things have been rather busy this summer -- lots of time at work, and teaching two sessions of basic catechist formation for the Diocese. But I'm taking this week off to attend LACon IV, this year's World Science Fiction Convention. It starts tomorrow the 23'rd and runs to Sunday afternoon. I'm going to stay at least through Mass Sunday morning (yep, Mass at a con -- this should be fun).

If I get a chance, I'll post some reactions each evening. My schedule for tomorrow (as far as I know):

  • arrive some time before noon, check in, and register
  • 2:30 pm - either Blogs & E-Fanzines, The Worst Future that You Can Imagine, or Okay, You've Got the Moon, What're You Going to Do With It?
  • 4:00 pm - Nuclear Weapon Strategies, My Life in a Time Machine, or The Future of Journalism
  • 5:00 pm (if nothing else from 4 works -- Reading by Joe Haldeman
  • 5:30 pm -- not sure yet, maybe listen to filksongs or hit the movies
  • 8:00 pm -- Babel Conference reception for Star Trek's 40th anniversary
And there are parties, besides.

The interesting part of this for me is that this is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is quite familiar to me from attending the LA Religious Education Congress for a number of years. I already know my way around.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Quote: Thomas Merton

If what most people take for granted were really true—if all you needed to be happy was to grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it, I should have been a very happy person, a spiritual millionaire, from the cradle even until now…What a strange thing! In filling myself, I had emptied myself. In grasping things, I had lost everything. In devouring pleasures and joys, I had found distress and anguish and fear.